The head coaching carousel is in full swing in the NFL now that the 2020 regular season is in the rearview mirror. Following the conclusion of Sunday's action, we've already seen a number of head coaches get the axe, including Adam Gase with the Jets, Doug Marrone with the Jaguars, and Anthony Lynn with the Chargers. When you add those gigs with the other head coaching jobs throughout the league that were already vacant, it makes for a rather interesting collection of destinations.
Which one is the best? We're here to sort that out. Below, we're going to rank the current openings across the league from best to worst and cover why each may be considered better than the other. Of course, there will be a number of factors at play here (ex. cap space, quarterback situation, draft capital, etc.) and every candidate from Eric Bieniemy to Brian Daboll to Pat Fitzgerald will lay out all of these variables as they come to a decision in the next chapter of their coaching careers.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
The reason why Jacksonville takes the cake for the top spot on this list starts and ends with Trevor Lawrence. Once the Jaguars secured the No. 1 overall pick and clinched the opportunity to select the Clemson phenom with it, they were going to be looked at as one of the top job openings in the NFL.
However, not only does a coach get to work with Lawrence -- who is viewed as the most polished quarterback to come out of college since Andrew Luck -- out of the gate, but Jacksonville also provides a blank slate. The club is projected to have the most amount of cap space in the NFL this offseason and they have an additional first-rounder to go along with the No. 1 overall pick thanks to the Jalen Ramsey trade last year. Jacksonville also has two second-rounders this spring to further deepen its draft cupboard.
What all these assets equate to is flexibility. Whoever signs on as the next head coach of the Jags will be able to help build a roster that is tailor-made to fit Lawrence's skillset and set him up for success out of the shoot. That also isn't even mentioning that the AFC South is a very winnable division and should be going forward.
2. Los Angeles Chargers
You'll see a theme here quite early that quarterbacks move the needle in these head-coaching destination rankings. Justin Herbert just put together arguably the greatest rookie season by a quarterback in league history and seems poised for stardom after being selected with the No. 6 overall pick last spring. Not only would a head coaching candidate get to work with Herbert as he continues his ascent, but they would adopt a club that has the eighth-most amount of cap space this offseason and a roster that could make a turnaround rather quickly, already boasting stars likes Joey Bosa, Keenan Allen, and others.
Unlike Jacksonville, the Chargers don't have a massive haul of extra picks at the ready this offseason, but do own the No. 13 overall selection to go along with their own second, third, and fourth. One possible knock that could give a candidate pause, however, is facing the Chiefs twice a year in the AFC West, making winning a division title that much more difficult.
Living in L.A. ain't too shabby, either.
3. New York Jets
Jets fans may still be a bit bummed after missing out on the No. 1 pick and Trevor Lawrence after their two-win surge at the end of the season, but this is still an attractive situation. Similar to the Jaguars, New York has a ton of capital to revamp the roster. Along with the No. 2 overall pick, the Jets also own Seattle's first- and third-rounders thanks to the Jamal Adams trade. Joe Douglas' club also has the second-most amount of cap space this spring, only looking up at Jacksonville. This means New York can add talent in a variety of ways to make them more competitive going forward.
One thing that will need to be sorted out -- and what most candidates will likely want to know -- is the future of Sam Darnold. If the Jets are intent on keeping him, that does play a factor. If they are looking to move off of him and draft the likes of Justin Fields with the No. 2 pick, that's also something that needs to be highlighted as this major decision comes at the most important position on the roster. If the Jets do move on from Darnold, that only creates even more assets to help jumpstart this rebuild under the new regime.
While Jacksonville and L.A. had a quarterback as a driving factor in why they were at the top of this list, Houston landing at No. 4 is solely because of Deshaun Watson. He is one of the only bright spots that the Texans have currently, but -- because Watson is so great -- he could help hide a few of Houston's blemishes for a head coach.
While most may not have recognized it because of the Texans' record, Watson put together a career season in 2020. His 4,823 passing yards were not only a career best, but also led the league. His 70.2 completion percentage, 33 passing touchdowns and seven interceptions were also the best of his still-young career. If a new head coach can come in and create a strong culture, Watson is a perfect building block and should be able to help lift up a roster that is lacking some talent at key spots for the time being.
The knocks on Houston, however, are the lack of draft capital and cap space. They don't own their own 2021 first-rounder (No. 3 overall) due to the Laremy Tunsil trade and also don't have a second this year. The Texans also rank in the bottom 10 of the league in projected cap space this offseason, which further puts them behind the eight ball of building a stable roster for 2021. A candidate would need to be thinking about a multi-year rebuild here to seriously get the Texans back on track.
The question surrounding the Lions is simply how ownership wants to approach these next few seasons. They could continue to build around Matthew Stafford -- signed through 2022 -- or look to trade him and go into a total rebuild. If they are simply looking for a culture change and want to keep this core together, that could change the scope of candidates that they are looking for.
Detroit does own the No. 7 overall pick in the 2021 draft so it is in range to get one of the young quarterback prospects if it so chooses. That high selection is a key piece going forward regardless as whoever they pick should be an instant-impact type of talent. In terms of cap space, the Lions are in the bottom half of the league for 2021, which does hurt their chances of revamping the roster quickly.
The Falcons have a few things working against them for making the organization a super attractive destination. They have an aging quarterback in Matt Ryan, who has a dead-cap hit of nearly $50 million next season making him nearly impossible to trade. They also have the third-fewest amount of cap space in the league, so bringing in talent through the open market isn't likely as they'll be outbid at essentially every corner. They do have the No. 4 overall pick this year so they could take a quarterback to mold behind Ryan over the next few seasons, but this is another spot where you are talking about a multi-year rebuild with less than stellar cap flexibility.